It doesn’t matter if there is one classical pianist more or less on the planet. But it matters to me. For some reason, I can’t imagine life without playing the piano. And I am a better person for it – it has made me face challenges that would otherwise have me running the other way.
On paper I’m not be the ideal pianist candidate. The package that is me came with left side muscle weakness and a fearful nature. Before I started my perpetual bodywork, pain and clumsiness were part of every day. And when I was younger, I couldn’t even answer a quick question in class without trembling voice and crimson flush. Adding to the original package, an ignorant though well-intentioned teacher taught me a method that eventually led to such pain I had to stop everything and learn how to play all over again.
At no step is success guaranteed. Sometimes I would have weeks of pain before I integrated a better movement. Sometimes onstage terror sucked the joy right out of performing. But solutions exist, and I was determined to find them. Painful focus on elusive details alternated with empowering discoveries. It’s thrilling to feel the speed and agility that results from training in efficient movement. And disciplining my mind to think in a different and more positive way feels surprisingly adventurous.
I am now a better pianist than I ever dreamed I could be. I’m in better shape than I was 30 years ago, and not only is performing easier for me, I even enjoy public speaking. And I know I wouldn’t have worked so hard if not for the hope of becoming a better pianist. Nothing else matters enough for me to push so far beyond my comfort zone.
Playing the piano was my passion from as far back as I can remember. Teaching others how to play the piano was an unexpected passion that developed later. When I teach I see how my challenges have morphed into strengths. Some of my students just need to know how – how to read music, how to move, how to make Beethoven sound like Beethoven. But many of my students need to know how to change – how to change their posture so their shoulders don’t hurt, how to change the way they play so their arms don’t hurt, how to change their mindset so it doesn’t kill their joy in playing. Because of my journey, I can help both the how and the how-to-change students.
It doesn’t matter if the play the piano either, but it matters to them. I love watching them succeed with my hard-won solutions.
That’s what a passion can do. A passion can make a person face down challenges until they become strengths.
That’s why I believe in pursuing our passions.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.